Second-placed Northampton narrowed the gap on leaders Leicester to a point thanks to a deserved win over their arch-rivals at Franklin’s Gardens.
Saints captain Phil Dowson went over in the 44th minute for the only try of the game, while fly-half Stephen Myler kicked the remainder of the hosts’ points through a conversion and four penalties.
Ill-discipline cost Leicester dear, with Craig Newby sin-binned on the half-hour mark following his spear tackle on Myler. Tigers shipped six crucial points while their captain was in the cooler.
The visitors’ only points came from a 23rd-minute penalty from Jeremy Staunton, which made it 3-3 at the time, and they lacked ideas throughout on a muddy pitch. They made the short trip home without even a bonus point.
The game began feistily, with Leicester lock Geoff Parling penalised for a cynical trip on Paul Diggin after the winger had made a clearing kick inside his own half. Parling was warned by referee Nigel Owens and Myler kicked the resulting eighth-minute penalty from centre-field.
Staunton missed one of his own shots at goal two minutes later but it was the Tigers who were having the edge up front in a real battle among the forwards.
A crunching tackle by Ben Kay on Lee Dickson allowed Leicester’s forwards to pile into the breakdown and after the scrum-half was pinged for not releasing, Staunton had the simple task of knocking over the penalty from in front of the posts to level.
With Saints’ formidable pack finally starting to exert some authority of their own, the hosts managed to get some go-forward and Myler booted his second penalty of the evening for 6-3 in the 27th minute. Leicester were suddenly on the back foot and their Newby did not help matters by spear-tackling Myler into the turf on the half-hour mark, picking up a yellow card for his sins.
Myler, playing at fly-half ahead of England reject Shane Geraghty, dusted himself down to land another penalty and Northampton were thoroughly on top.
Their pack a man light, the Tigers then found themselves in trouble at a scrum which was conceded when full-back Scott Hamilton carelessly knocked on fielding a high kick. Their front row popped up, forcing Owens to signal another penalty, and Myler was again on target to send his side into the interval 12-3 in front.
In rainy, slippery conditions, that was a big lead to hold and Saints extended it four minutes into the second half. Leicester moments earlier needed a last-ditch double tackle from Alesana Tuilagi and Anthony Allen to keep out Chris Ashton in the right corner but the home side were not to be denied.
From the resulting line-out, Northampton turned over possession and following a scrum, number eight Dowson picked the ball up from the base and charged over from close range down the blindside. Myler converted for 19-3.
Staunton missed a long-range penalty in the 47th minute as the visitors attempted to mount a recovery with moves out in their backs. Saints, happy to sit on their lead, defended heroically in their own 22 though, and soaked up everything their opponents could throw at them – including some trademark bulldozing runs by stocky winger Tuilagi.
Following a rare foray forward, Myler was off target with a tough penalty chance out wide – his first miss of the night – but it mattered little as they comfortably deprived the Tigers a losing bonus point.